A pair of 3-yr-old guinea pigs were surrendered to the shelter a few days ago. The owner was a woman who had her young daughter with her. She explained to the workers that she was giving up the guinea pigs because they wouldn't play with her younger child, a toddler. The pigs were terrified of the toddler and always hid from him/her.
The worker tried to explain that the pigs could just be kept out of reach of the toddler and maybe the toddler shouldn't be playing with guinea pigs anyway (except she said it much more diplomatically), but the woman would have none of it. She signed the papers and the guinea pigs came upstairs to me.
I immediately took them out for their photos. They are incredibly cute - Swiffer (the black one, love the name) is a Peruvian, with amazing long hair. Sparkles is an American and has the cutest cream and white colouring. They had clearly been well cared for, and were surrendered with bags of food and toys. They were super friendly.
There was a noise at the entrance to the Room and I turned to see the woman with her daughter.
"Is it all right if she says goodbye?" The woman asked.
"Of course," I replied, because even though I think you're a terrible person, I'm not going to take it out on your kid.
The little girl came in and said sadly, "Bye, Swiffer. Bye, Sparkles."
I told her she could pet them if she wanted.
"If they'll let you touch them," The woman said with a sniff. Justifying it, making the guinea pigs the bad guys. That's classy.
The girl stroked them gently, just the way guinea pigs like to be stroked. The pigs nuzzled up to her, clearly having been well loved.
"All right, let's go look at some more kittens," The woman said after a minute. She lead the sniffling girl away as though it were a fun day out.
I have seen a few animals surrendered. I'm only a volunteer so I haven't really seen that many, but every time it pisses me off and then I swear under my breath for a while and get on with things.
But this was just so cold. What is that woman teaching her child? That it's ok to discard living things, just because they're inconvenient? That if something isn't perfect, it's ok to give it away?
Those guinea pigs were three years old. They had them for three whole years. That little girl loved them and they were clearly fond of her. She will never forget leaving them behind, while her mother shuffled her off to look at the cute freaking kittens.
I'm not worried about Swiffer and Sparkles. They're cute, they're friendly, they're interesting breeds. They've probably already been adopted.
I'm worried about that little girl and what she learned that day. I'm worried about whether she's still sad or whether a distraction has lead her to forget her furry friends, whether she's learned not to get attached to pets and do away with them when they cause the slightest of problems.
I should be used to it, but I'm still appalled at how callous people can be.